For My Mom: A Badass Rattlesnake Killer

Morgan Armstad Girls

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My mom has been enshrined in my mind as a badass since I was eight years old, though I may not have used quite that vocabulary at the time. It was the summer she killed a rattlesnake in our front yard, by decapitating it with a shovel.

We lived on a ranch 20 miles outside a small town, and living in rural central Montana means learning at a young age how to watch out for rattlesnakes. My mom would often see snakes in the grass as she took walks along the gravel road in the mornings, but they didn’t frequently slither too close to our house. However, on this particular day my mom was walking from our doublewide trailer to my grandmother’s, and right in front of my grandma’s steps was a coiled up rattlesnake, taking a nap in the sun.

My mom could have backed away and let the snake be, hoping it would slink away on its own soon, but my grandma was inside. If she had come out and not seen it, she could easily have stepped on it on her way down the stairs.  

So my mom, being the badass that she is, took a couple steps back and then vaulted herself over the snake. She landed on the deck and luckily, there happened to be a shovel leaning against the house.

Poor little sun-basking snakey had no idea what hit him. She cut his head clean off, making our yard safe once again. I didn’t actually see any of this happen, and when my mom told us the story later she didn’t make a big deal about it; but with my eight-year-old imagination, the story was embellished for her.  

In my mind: she jumped so high over that rattlesnake she could have kicked the roof; when she brought the shovel down on Mr. Rattler’s head, she let out a Xena: Warrior Princess battle cry that scared birds from their nests; and the ground trembled with the force of her blow.

My mom was strong, she was fearless, and most importantly, she was humble.

Her heroism that summer day in my childhood is but one example of my mom’s badassness. She raised three kids as a single mom, working at least three jobs at any one time throughout my adolescence. My brothers and I didn’t make single-parenting particularly easy on her either, but I can count on one hand the number of times my mom actually raised her voice and yelled at us.

Knowing we had somehow disappointed our incredibly selfless mother inspired change in us, more so than any amount of screaming or harsh words could have.

She has also been teaching world history and drama to sophomores for over 30 years, and has positively impacted countless young lives in the process.

I know a lot of people grow up thinking their parents are the smartest people on earth, and then realize they’re not even close. Well, mine actually is. You can ask her a question about almost any topic, excluding math, and she will know the answer. She could win thousands on Jeopardy if she would ever agree to my entreaties that she go on the show.

She is a surrogate mom to every one of her kids’ friends; she has so much love in her heart there’s plenty to go around.  

My badass mom has been my best friend for as long as I can remember. I know there were a couple years in my angsty-teenage phase when I was mean to her far too regularly, but I’ve worked hard to block that time out due to regret. She’s always wanted the best the world can offer for me, and has supported me in all my big choices.

When she learned her 20-year-old daughter was pregnant, she handled it with far more grace, compassion and reason than most mothers can manage. I’m confident that I myself would be less than reasonable if in the same position someday.

My mom is the calm in all my storms. That includes being the only thing that could comfort me in the midst of painkiller-free childbirth.

She’s the voice of reason I don’t know if I can ever live without.

At times I surprise myself with how similar I am to my mom, how certain parenting traits get passed down without any effort. I am far more patient now as a parent than I ever was able to be as a person before I had my daughter. I know it was my mother’s unfaltering patience with my brothers and I throughout our lives that awoke this trait in me. I am a kinder and more forgiving person because of her influence – she is the most caring and selfless person I know.

Sometimes it’s just certain things I say or the way I say them, it’s like I can actually hear her voice passing through my lips.

Unlike some young women who live in terror, hoping never to become “just like their mother,” I absolutely relish the moments I’m struck by our similarities. She is my biggest role model in all things – if I can be even half as patient, kind, intelligent, loving, forgiving, compassionate, or strong as my mother is, I will be an amazing person.

I will have attained a level of #badassmom.

Do you know a Badass Mom? Nominate them here!


About the Author

Morgan Armstad

Morgan Armstad is a part-time writer and waitress, as well as a full-time mom to her incredible daughter Skye. She loves to read, dance and eat Milano cookies. She graduated spring 2016 from the University of Montana in Missoula with a degree in journalism with a history minor. Morgan is currently working and writing at Mamalode magazine in Missoula and has written for the website VProud.

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